Decay accelerating factor (DAF) is a cell membrane associated glycoprotein that inhibits C3 activation. In the present study we evaluated the presence of DAF in normal (N = 15) and diseased human kidneys (N = 76). Sections of frozen tissue were stained for DAF by immunoperoxidase, utilizing three mouse monoclonal anti-DAF antibodies. In normal kidneys, DAF was localized in the glomerular vascular pole, apparently in the juxtaglomerular apparatus (JGA). All other structures were negative for DAF. By contrast, in diseased kidneys, two types of abnormalities were detected. First, JGA-DAF was significantly decreased and this abnormality correlated with the pathologic diagnosis and with the presence of C3, IgM and/or fibrinogen in the glomeruli. Second, DAF was present in the glomerular mesangium (67%), renal interstitium (68%) and/or blood vessels (38%). The presence of DAF in the mesangium and interstitium of the kidney correlated with each other and correlated with C1q and C3 deposition in the glomerulus. Finally, vascular DAF was significantly more common in patients with electron dense deposits in the glomeruli. In summary, DAF is present in the normal kidney and is located exclusively in the glomerular vascular pole. In diseased kidneys, DAF tends to be lost from the JGA but is often present in glomerular mesangium, interstitium and blood vessels. This pattern is specially prominent in patients demonstrating complement deposition in the glomerulus. We speculate that kidney DAF may play a role in protecting the kidney against the products of complement activation.
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